Burberry Prorsum embraced the ultimate polar dichotomy with its Spring 2012 show. A handcraft extravaganza broadcast live on the web, each individual look posted on the British luxury brand’s Twitter page as it went down the runway. Looking back, looking forward. All the world is a stage. A platitude in thought, but a real world triumph.
The heavy handcraft touch was expected, given the sensational menswear showing three months prior. All of the same experiments with geometric wood carving appliques, the weaving and braiding, the heavy beading was all here, and played just as strongly in the womenswear. The parka took center stage above the trench this season, the most eye-catching of them all with grid woven nappa leather sleeves. The artisanal work here recalls much of the same ideas that stateside design duo Proenza Schouler has been exploring for their past few collections, especially with the extended use of raffia.
Moreso than the raffia, beading was the embellishment du jour. Beaded necklaces, coat plankets, cummerbunds, collars and even the layered multicolored straps on the leopard wedge sandals. It wasn’t just an arts & crafts motif that Christopher Bailey explored here, but once again like the Proenza boys, a tribal spirit flowed throughout. That batik print on wrapped skirts and sheath dresses was a grand touch and felt like one of the clearest efforts the house took in moving the brand into a new territory. Another would be those geometric wooden pieces that adorned necklines and entire tees – where the men had colorful, sunburst spirals, the women’s played with zig-zagging rows, more like the sun rays themselves, instead of the entire star. In keeping with the Pacific tribalism, skintight ruched sheath skirts with exaggerated peplums were tucked and wrapped to almost look like sarongs.
The similarities between this classic British label’s spring foray and that of New York’s newest fashion power duo are quite striking, but the feeling they each conveyed were just as strikingly dissimilar. Where Proenza Schouler worked to elevate 1950s kitsch, the great, fancy house of Burberry would never deign to play with such a thing. Directing a brand that’s already chockfull with heritage, Bailey might have just produced a significant collection that’s one for the house books.